Back in 2002, the Republican Strategists were faced with an uncomfortable issue. The country had been attacked on 9/11, the country was at war but there was a small problem – most of the decorated veterans who were either in office or running for office were Democrats and there were an uncomfortable number of Republicans who had skipped on their opportunity to fight in Vietnam.
For example, John Kerry, Max Cleland, Wesley Clark, Joe Sestak, and many more decorated veterans are all Democrats. The Republicans eagerly and always tried to counter with John McCain, another clear war hero, but there were far too many Republicans who liked to talk the war talk, but had not served – chief among them President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
Saxby Chambliss was one such man and candidate. He had injured a knee skiing in the 1960s and had got a medical deferment. To make matters worse in his race to be the next Senator from the great state of Georgia, Saxby Chambliss was running against Senator Max Cleland, who not only had been in Vietnam but had returned without two legs and an arm after a hand-grenade explosion at Khe Sanh.
Seems like the Republicans were going to lose, right? The draft dodger could never beat the war hero in a time of war, right?
Well, what they tried and what Saxby won with was a massive television campaign that featured Cleland’s face morphing into Osama Bin Laden’s and the commercial accused Max of being soft on the war on terror and unwilling to defend our country. What little factual base there was behind this was based upon a procedural vote on TSA that they were able to mischaracterise as well.
Laughable, right? What did they want? Max to lose his other arm in Vietnam? But the commercial worked. And Saxby won – pledging to defend the Red, White And Blue. We have to presume this meant he was going to be more careful when skiing in the future.
That moment doesn’t get the credit it deserves in the creation of Donald Trump.
Prior to that race, Republican strategists ran races with one foot in reality – but after 2002, if Saxby can beat Max and use “being soft of defending America” as the theme, well, then anything is possible – the Republicans realised that they didn’t have to position candidates, they could simply lie. It opened up a wealth of opportunities.
The entire Right Wing machine started to roll and take shape. The media outlets fell into line from talk radio to Fox News. So in 2004, when it was time to attack John Kerry for winning not one, not two, but three Purple Hearts and position George W. Bush as the war hero (he may have been part-time in the Alabama National Guard while Kerry was in Vietnam), the machine knew what to do.
“John Kerry faked his medals!” the Republicans sneered. “John Kerry is a fraud,” they claimed. Dick Cheney even got into the act when he debated John Edwards, and trying to position Edwards as not taking his job as Senator seriously, claimed during their debate that he had never met Edwards. It was a brazen and blatent lie.
(Disclosure: James Boyce was an adviser to John Kerry during his 2004 presidential campaign. – Ed)
Cheney had practice. He had led the charge to convince America that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11. When Democrats wanted to get out of Iraq, flabbergasted news anchors on Fox News denounced them, “these are the people who attacked us on 9/11”, but of course, they weren’t.
After 2004, the distancing from reality picked up momentum, and with each passing major issue or election, the Republican Party and the media that supports it created a larger and larger gap between even fundamental facts and politics.
One of the charges against Obama and healthcare reform, with Fox News leading the way, was the charge to keep the government out of Medicare. Irony, of course, because Medicare is now and always was a government programme.
There are some heroes of this movement. Sarah Palin comes to mind and of course, the great Michelle Bachman who, among my favourites, was quoted as saying that if English was good enough for Jesus, it was good enough for Americans.
She now denies saying such a thing, but when would Fox News lie?
So in this world where the facts don’t matter, there were what they thought were legitimate questions of where Barack Obama was born. That situation got so comical that the Republican Governor of Hawaii stopped having Hawaiian officials answer requests for copies of his birth certificate that he showed it at a press conference and said enough, he is American.
But it was the birth certificate that showed Donald Trump the path.
Donald Trump is many things, pompous, media-savvy and Twitter Gold but he is not an idiot so he must have been amused at the massive amount of press he got when he questioned Obama’s birth certificate.
Does Donald Trump think that Obama was born somewhere else? Of course not. But it must have amused him to no end to see the support he got by questioning a fact.
It showed him that if he just said the right thing, even if the right thing was comically wrong, he could get traction. And he has used that strategy to great effect – and to my great amusement because I spent 10 years helping Democratic and progressive groups fight back against the Republican machine – not fun and not very successful. I confess to greatly enjoy “mainstream” Republicans like Senator Lyndsay Graham just wobble in frustration because they can’t fight the lies.
So now after Trump’s victories yesterday, it is even more likely that he will be the nominee. The bizarre Cruz-Kasich partnership is sure to fail and in Cleveland, this summer, the Republicans will nominate Donald Trump to make America great again.
Joke’s over then, right?
I mean no way he beats Hillary, right?
I’m not so sure and I would direct you to the site that explains American politics well, www.270towin.com.
You see, for all that American talk about democracy, the person with the most votes doesn’t win – it’s the person with the most electoral college votes which are dependent on winning states.
So look at the map on the site a second. Trump Versus Clinton. Of the Red States, are there any that I think will vote for Hillary, a woman and a Democrat and wife of the most hated Bill Clinton, over Trump?
No. Not a one.
Now, of the Blue States, are there any that will vote for Trump over Hillary?
Maybe. I would say New York and New Jersey would be close. I think New Jersey might swing to Trump but New York stays blue because of all the women who will vote Hillary in the city.
So now, we go Swing States. You hear a lot about Swing States in the US, and you should.
I’ll go West to East.
Only 15 EV (electoral college votes) between Nevada and Colorado, but I could see Trump winning Nevada and I’d give Hillary Colorado.
Iowa and Wisconsin. Wisconsin is a state that ate too much cheese and voted Scott Walker in. Hillary has never done well in Iowa. But let’s be cautious and do a split again – giving her Iowa and him Wisconsin. (Look, you support Scott Walker, Trump seems sane.)
We’re at 232 Clinton, 207 Trump, and we’re headed east. Virginia – Trump got more votes than Clinton and Sanders combined. I think he wins there.
Ohio – Trump got 727,000 votes. Hillary got 680,000 but Kasich got almost a million. Will Kasich support Trump in the end? I bet he does. It goes Red.
New Hampshire is a toss-up. Trump got more primary votes than Hillary. The state is very conservative. I think it goes Red.
Florida, 2.1-million Republicans voted in the primary and Trump won. 1.6-million Democrats voted in the primary and Clinton won. Who’s more energised? Red.
North Carolina recently passed a horrific piece of anti-gay (essentially) legislation. So Donald Trump stepped right in…. and denounced it. Because he knows he needs more than the crazy right, and the middle right won’t vote for Hillary if there is an option.
North Carolina and Pennsylvania. I’ll stop here. I don’t know what is going to happen. You can use the great map at 270towin.com and play with states and change colours as well as I can.
But can Trump win? I mean is it possible Donald Trump wins?
The answer is, absolutely, yes.
I’ll end with two predictions.
One, Trump cleans up in the debates. Trump will roast Hillary on being a career politician, on making 10 of millions of dollars since leaving office, on getting paid over $200,000 to do a short Q&A at Goldman Sachs. Trump also gave money to her and the foundation and just like clockwork, she showed up at his wedding.
Two, I bet Hillary wins if it’s her and Trump, but I also think that Sanders runs as an independent because 74-year-old Jewish politicians from Vermont don’t get another chance – why wouldn’t he run? I’m betting he does.
Three person race, Trump wins. DM
Photo: Businessman and US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reacts as he speaks at a campaign rally in Bethpage, on Long Island, New York, USA, 06 April 2016. Voters will go to the polls for the New York primary on 19 April. EPA/PETER FOLEY
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